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The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age$
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K. P. Van Anglen and James Engell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474429641

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474429641.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

The Other Classic: Hebrew Shapes British and American Literature and Culture

The Other Classic: Hebrew Shapes British and American Literature and Culture

Chapter:
(p.341) Chapter 13 The Other Classic: Hebrew Shapes British and American Literature and Culture
Source:
The Call of Classical Literature in the Romantic Age
Author(s):

James Engell

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474429641.003.0014

Hebrew, once regarded as a “classical language,” exerts enormous shaping power on British and American poetry, politics, and culture from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. It prompts the greatest innovations in post-Renaissance English verse, developments in aesthetics, including the sublime, fruitful arguments in politics, and vital strands of British and American thought that cannot be accounted for otherwise. This shaping power—related to but not the same as the influence of biblical translations regarded as literature—has received only sporadic attention. Hebrew as the other classic has not obtained its rightful place in studies of literature in English, nor in Anglo-American literate culture. This essay explores the other classic in: British and American colleges and universities; Puritan Hebraists; concepts of the sublime; the seminal criticism of Robert Lowth; the work of Dennis, Watts, Smart, Macpherson, Merrick, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Longfellow, and Lazarus; in myths of national origin and identification; in Coleridge, De Quincey, Thoreau, Melville, Arnold, and J. L. Lowes; as well as in an appreciation of the stylistic and moral strengths of Hebrew Scripture. It explores why study of Hebrew declined. The essay challenges the exclusion of Hebrew, upon which all discussion of “classical languages” and their reception by the romantics has been based. The presence of Hebrew as the other classic enlarges and redefines the nature of classical influences on the romantic era.

Keywords:   Hebrew, Robert Lowth, parallelism, the sublime, classical languages, De Quincey, Whitman, Coleridge, MatthewArnold, Hebraism and Hellenism

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